Author Archives: karenwrites

Writing a Book That Sells: 9 Questions to Answer Before You Start

You may be so enthusiastic about starting your book that you can’t wait to put your fingers to the keyboard and start to write your first chapter. But before you begin there are a few things you need to think about. Taking some time to organize your work and your thoughts will not only make it easier to write, it will greatly increase your chances of completing your book, and of writing a book that sells.

Who Is Your Reader?
If you’ve spent any time at all in business you’ve heard the phrase, “find your target market.” As a writer, your target market is your reader. When I ask writers I work with who their target reader is, the most common answer I get is “everyone,” or some variation of the word, such as “every parent” or “everyone in business” or “everyone who likes to cook,” or “everyone who reads mysteries,” or another answer that is equally as broad.
Some people try to narrow it down a bit: “My audience is women” (okay, you’ve narrowed it to half the population) or “My audience is women between the ages of 30 and 60,” (now we’ve got it to one quarter of the population). All of these answers are just too expansive to define your true target reader.
Before you begin to write your book, come up with as detailed a description of your target reader as possible. The more you know about your reader, the better equipped you will be in writing a book that they will be interested in buying and reading.
Is your audience experts on your subject, or beginners in the field? Knowing the answer will help you adjust your vocabulary to the correct level. A book written for beginners that does not explain complex vocabulary specific to your subject will quickly turn off readers who are unfamiliar but want to learn.
Don’t think that this question is only for writers of nonfiction. Fiction writers must also think about the age and vocabulary of their readers. A “read-to-me” book, or one written for four- and five-year-olds who do not yet read should have a higher vocabulary than a first reader. Why? Because a young child’s listening vocabulary and comprehension are greater than the words he can actually read for himself.
Science fiction and fantasy are two other fiction genres that often require the writer to explain a new or different technology or world to the reader. If your characters live in a world that different from our own, you must explain the rules of the world to the reader, and that includes both the physics and the legal rules.
Understanding who your reader is has a huge impact on how you write your book. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your target readers.

1. What is their gender?
2. What is their age?
3. What is their income level?
4. What are their hobbies?
5. What other books do they read?
6. How much do they know about the subject of my book; i.e., is this written as a book for beginners or for experts?

I often suggest that a writer think of a specific person who would enjoy reading her book. As you write, keep this person in mind. How would he react to what you have written? Would he understand the explanation or description you just wrote or would he be bored and find it too elementary? Would he chuckle or gasp in horror at the right places?

Your Subject and Your Theme
How does the theme of your book differ from the subject? The subject is the topic of your book—fly fishing in the Great Lakes, for example, or how to sell more widgets. Your theme is the message you want your readers to remember. It is your purpose, the reason you are writing your book.
Remember those high school English classes where you had to write compositions on the theme of exciting books such as Billy Budd or The Crucible? No one could have hated writing those essays as much as I. Maybe that’s why it took me years to admit that all writing—no matter how short or how long—must have a theme or purpose. If you don’t have a purpose, why write at all? Once I learned this lesson, I became a better writer.
Remember, your theme is different than the subject of your work. Your subject is the topic that you are writing about. Your theme is why you are writing about it. To find your theme ask yourself these questions:

7. What knowledge would I like my readers to gain from reading my book?
8. What do I want them to think or feel?
9. What actions would I like them to take after reading my book?

There are many reasons for writing a book. You may want to persuade your readers toward your opinion, introduce a new idea or help them to gain knowledge of a product or process. A few examples will explain it best:

• The theme of a book on salesmanship might be: “It is easy to increase your sales closing ratio by using these ten steps.”
• A book designed to introduce beginners to economic theory could be: “Making sense of supply and demand is important for an understanding of both global and local economics.”
• A life coach might have this theme: “Whether large or small, each of the choices we make has an impact on our lives.”
• A theme for a fiction book aimed at middle school readers might be, “all actions have consequences.”
• A theme for an adult fiction book could be, “with compassion comes forgiveness.”

Notice that each of the themes that I used in the earlier examples was only one sentence long.
The first time you write the theme for your book it will probably take you a paragraph or even two. That’s an excellent place to start, but if it has taken you that many words to describe your theme, you are either not clear about what your purpose is, or you are attempting to include too many themes or purposes for your book. I call this the “everything including the kitchen sink syndrome” in book writing.
Take a look at your paragraph and try to condense it. If you are having trouble, ask a friend to help you. Rewrite it, cutting out any ideas that are not essential. Don’t stop until you can state your theme in one to two sentences. Then write you theme in a notebook, on your computer; anywhere where you can easily refer back to it. Keeping your theme in mind will help you keep you book on track.

Watch Out for This When Planning Your Amazon Promotions

By Melissa Macfie
Do you ever read the terms of service agreement before clicking “accept” when “signing” an agreement on the internet? Never did I think I would need to know those terms when signing up for a simple Amazon Promotion, but I did.
Somewhere in my upbringing the phrase “don’t sign until you read the fine print” was embedded. This made signing my first mortgage exceedingly tedious for our agent. He was patient, allowed me to read, and answered my questions—some of them repeatedly and using small words—until I was comfortable enough to sign. This penchant for reading the fine print became further rooted by various experiences where I needed to parse a single sentence to ensure a favorable outcome.
When I wrote my first book, the world of publishing was foreign to me. The little I thought I knew about publishing was invalidated almost as soon as I entered. The one thing I knew was that to survive, I had to read the fine print—starting with the publishing contract. The terms of agreement were straightforward and outlined the responsibilities of both parties. It was explained to me with patience all I would be required to do. It was reassuring.
This reassurance coupled with my confidence that I could parse a lengthy Terms of Agreement document, had me signing up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program with the enthusiasm and glee of a child. Reading terms of service agreements can be daunting, and even though it took me some time to understand the whole document, I had a good bead on what the contract laid out. Never would I have thought that I would have to put it to use.
To explain, the KDP enrollment period is for the span of three months, which renews automatically. During one three-month period, authors are allowed to reduce their pricing once per book. The point of this type of promotion is to make your book more attractive to new readers and quickly increase your Amazon ranking—not to mention your royalties. These .99 cent promotions work best when coupled with paid advertising with a variety of subscriptions newsletters which inform readers of .99 cent and free book promotions. I have scheduled many such reductions successfully in the past, but this time I decided to schedule the promotion on the first day of the new enrollment period.
Not expecting any difficulty, I submitted and paid for my books to be advertised on multiple promotion websites. Once confirmed with the advertisers, I went to schedule the price reduction at KDP.Amazon.com. According to the Amazon terms of agreement, 24 hours’ notice must be given in order for the price to be reduced, and having left a four day margin, I thought I was in the clear.
I was wrong.
Since it was technically in the last days of my previous KDP period, all the system would let me do was schedule up to the last day of that period. It would NOT allow me to schedule a promotion on the first day of the next period. In a panic, because, as I mentioned, I’d already spent money on advertising, I reread the terms of agreement and the FAQ page on the KDP site. In neither location was there any mention of scheduling for upcoming enrollment periods. But there was also NOTHING that said a promotion could not be run on the first day of an enrollment period. Time was running short, so I quickly sent an email to Amazon. It was answered within twelve hours. The response reiterated the end and start dates of my enrollment, that twenty-four hours was needed to schedule a price reduction, and that I would not be able to schedule for the first day of the renewed period.
This was a problem. I could not change the advertising I had already scheduled. It was paid for and it was too late to change things on the half dozen sites on which I had signed up. Looking over those Amazon terms of agreement again, nowhere did it state that I could not begin a promotion on the first day of the enrollment period. I was not going to let this go!
I followed up with another email. This one earned a phone call from an Amazon associate within two hours of my sending it. The phone call was to inform me that they verified my statement that this clause was, in fact, not in their terms, and as such, they would grant my request to schedule the price reduction on the first day of my enrollment period. I was told additionally that this would be the only time they would do so, as if I was the one who did something wrong.
My ire at this situation was substantially eased by the favorable outcome of my promotion the next week, and the knowledge that I was able to do it because of my diligence. However, just to be safe, moving forward, I will not schedule price reductions in the first week of my new enrollment period—and I suggest you do not either.
Now for the statistics: The promotion was a .99 cent promotion for Fate’s Hand, Book 1 in my Celtic Prophecy series, and free for Reliquary’s Choice, Book 2 in the series. The promotion took me to Number 2 in Free Kindle books for Reliquary’s Choice and Number 14 in Magical Realism for Fate’s Hand. Overall there were over 4,000 downloads for Reliquary and I also increased the number of reviews. There were 222 books sold at .99 cents for Fate’s Hand. Although I did give away over 4,000 copies of Reliquary’s Choice free, some of that does translate into money, through readers who use the Kindle Unlimited program which pays authors for “pages read.”
Melissa Macfie, author of Fate’s Hand and Reliquary’s Choice, is currently working on the third book in the Celtic Prophecy series, Oracle’s Curse. She also develops custom e-book marketing plans for other authors. Contact her at melissa.macfie@yahoo.com.

in search of the perfect onion ring book cover

In Search of the Perfect Onion Ring by Chris Kern

A Son’s Stories of Life, Death, Cancer & His Dad

What happens when you suddenly learn your dad won’t be around much longer?

Our parents: How often we take them for granted, dismiss them, or complain about their quirks, particularly as they age? You know they won’t be around forever, but what happens when you suddenly realize that time is almost here?

For Chris Kern that moment came the day his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Chris takes us from diagnosis through death as he deals with helping his father through the last months of his life. But this is not just a book about cancer, grief or loss. Instead, it is a book about the day-to-day life of a father and son, the lessons learned about life, about his father, his sons, and himself.

ISBN: 978-0-9981208-2-9
Price: $12.99 paper, $2.99 ebook
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